Osseo High School Graduate Eli Hoff’s interest in sports journalism began in third grade after reading a book by Washington Post columnist John Feinstein about two teenage sports reporters.
Hoff thought their jobs were too good to be true, but he is now living that dream as the managing editor of EPluribusLoonum.com, a team community webpage for the Minnesota United soccer team.
Minnesota United has captured the Twin Cities sports scene by storm since it debuted this spring and Hoff has experienced the new phenomenon up close.
“Watching sports, talking to athletes and writing about it – for a job?” Hoff said. “At that point, it seemed like a dream job. The book inspired me to get a jump start on journalism early. Osseo High School doesn’t offer a student newspaper or any journalism classes, so I decided to see what I could do in the real world. I didn’t know how far I would make it without any training, but my goal was to be credentialed for a professional sporting event by the time I turned 18.
“I ended up doing that two years early and accomplishing far more than I ever thought I would.”
A little bit of luck helped Hoff land the job covering the Loons. He was writing for his own website but had aspirations to move up to a larger operation.
In late 2016, Hoff said SB Nation, a national sports blogging network, was looking for writers for its new Minnesota United-focused website. They took a chance on Hoff, and about a year-and-a-half ago, the top three editors moved on, making a spot for Hoff to become the managing editor.
Hoff leads a staff of about 15 writers, photographers and designers at EPluribusLoonum.com. His main job is to cover United’s home games from the Allianz Field press box, which also means attending the head coach’s postgame press conference and interviewing players in the locker room and practices.
He also started freelancing over the summer covering Minnesota United and the US Men’s National Team for Major League Soccer’s website. A couple of the editors there were familiar with his work, and they chose him for stories in the Twin Cities market.
“It’s pretty crazy that I’ve had all these opportunities with very little experience or training,” Hoff said. “Not all of my writing is strictly reporting-based, though, so there are columns, opinion pieces and statistical analysis projects that I work on. I get to do a lot of different stuff, which is what makes it so fun.”
Another fun part of Hoff’s job is watching the Loons gain in popularity and soccer blossom into a major spectator sport in the Twin Cities. All the Loons’ home games at Allianz Field are sold out.
“I see Loons apparel everywhere now, and the team is only getting more popular,” Hoff said. “Soccer is losing the reputation of being a boring game as people actually check it out and realize how entertaining it is. I used to be firmly in that camp until I really discovered the beautiful game a few years ago, so it’s awesome to see more and more people becoming soccer fans.”
The new Allianz Field’s ambiance adds to the Loons’ appeal, Hoff said. They have over 19,400 fans a game and Hoff said that they cheer for the full 90 minutes. There is also a new tradition where fans sing ‘Wonderwall’ by Oasis following victories.
“It’s deafening after a goal or a win,” Hoff said. “Players and coaches always praise the atmosphere created by a fan base, but you can tell that Minnesota United really means it. The US Men’s National Team played here in July, and the World Cup champion US Women’s Team is coming in September. So what’s happening here has gotten national recognition.
“Minnesota is right up there with markets like New York and Los Angeles for soccer now.”
Hoff has already collected a professional resume that many longtime sports writers take years to achieve at 18-years old. But he has not lost sight of his educational pursuits. This fall, Hoff will be attending the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism.
“It was the nation’s first J-School, so I’m super excited to learn from the best in the business there,” Hoff said. “I will not be covering Minnesota United when I am in school. I’ll be writing in some degree about (Missouri) sports, but I don’t know what outlet or what sport yet.”